Recently there's been news-- Stephen Hawking and Russian billionaire launch $100 million search for E.T..
It got me thinking about the considerations of encountering extraterrestrials. There are risks in encountering intelligent extraterrestrials. Most science fiction movies portray them as predatory killers. But there are exceptions-- Spielberg's ET and Cameron's Avatar characterize extraterrestrials who are kinder and wiser than modern, post-industrial world humans.
I wonder how extraterrestrials would see humans today. Who would they choose to talk to? Who would they see as psychotic or mentally ill? Who would they decide to help, if they felt there was human promise and potential.
I'm assuming that if we make enough interstellar noise, some intelligent lifeform will find us, and that they will initiate contact. Will we attract contact because we are a dangerous potential disease to be treated like Ebola, or because we have potential to contribute to the intergalactic community?
How will extraterrestrials judge or assess us? Will they consider how we treat each other, how we treat our ecosystems, how we treat and respect the outer space near our planet? Will they see our organismic selves as a transitional evolutionary as the earth metamorphosizes into non-organic artificial intelligence?
Considering the cost of humans venturing into deep space, beyond the solar system, it would be easy for extraterrestrials to cause "accidents" that delay and discourage space exploration, let alone colonization.
Some people believe that aliens are already profoundly influencing life on this planet. I think that's a wild fantasy.
But let's get back to the question of how we would be treated by a race of interstellar visitors-- perhaps representing a whole collection of different, widely varying life forms and non (Artificial intelligence) forms of intelligent beings.
What criteria would they evaluate us on, in terms of our suitability to be included in a community. I was tempted to use the word civilized. But there are too many aspects of civilization that I am not sure would pass muster for an intergalactic community.
Would they condone hierarchy and inequality?
Would they condone the slaughter of one life form by another-- through pollution or carnivorousness or omnivorousness?
Would they tolerate slavery, as Obama does, in Malaysia?
Would ownership of land or resources be tolerated? They might see the idea that one person or a thing, like a corporation owns land or water the same way we view cannibals eating "other" non-tribal people.
Our extraterrestrial visitors could indeed be predators. Would they identify the predatory humans-- the psychopaths, sociopaths and narcissists-- and recruit them to help in herding and harvesting the rest of us?
Do extraterrestrials already know about us? Have they known about us, or our planet for millennia, and they're waiting for us to grow up? Do they do that on thousands or millions of worlds?
Do they wait until we build a technology, like television that is broadcast in electromagnetic frequency waves out into space, so we reach them, and then send us instructions on how to reach them, as Carl Sagan described in his book, made into the movie, Contact?
Perhaps the next step in the unfolding of humanity, and intelligence on earth will be to face the reality and the potentials and possibilities of becoming a part of a multi-species interstellar community of intelligent life forms. I intentionally did not use the word "beings" because even on earth we have life forms that do not exist separately, but rather as interconnected living colonies. Perhaps
if WHEN humans encounter other intelligent life forms it will change the way we treat each other and our own planet's other life forms. I hope so. I hope that the other intelligent lifeforms capable of interplanetary travel and communication will have set minimum criteria for newly contacted life forms that MAY be considered intelligent.
I would hope that these intelligent, otherworldly life forms/entities would be advanced enough to see the intolerance, the cruel predation and destruction, the arrogant sense of betterness and superiority some manifest on this planet as temporary afflictions that our species can rise above.
Will the military, and foolish, cowardly leaders, as have been portrayed so many times in movies, react with fear, paranoia and their own projections, to attack or imprison visitors?
It would be a good idea if Hawking's team invested some of the $100 million in exploring these questions. Perhaps, in the process of searching for life on other planets, we could start thinking about the conscious agency of life on this planet. I'm pretty sure we are not where we need to be yet, in terms of readiness to meet truly intelligent extraterrestrial life. Perhaps, our first step is to become intelligent terrestrial life. We don't even need to find or encounter intelligent life to begin working on this.
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